Coast KZN

08 Mar 2019

Greenpeace targets single use plastics

Staff Writer (The Mercury: Environment) Picture: A recycling depot and landfill site in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. EPA-EFE

The writer says plastic is contributing towards a looming environmental disaster, clogging waterways, killing off marine life and threatening human health. 

DURBAN – Greenpeace Africa volunteers have started an ambitious campaign calling on South Africa’s top political parties to adopt a ban on single-use plastics in their election manifestos before this year’s election.

Spokesperson Chris Vlavianos said the group was urging the political elite to recognise that the country was lagging behind in the continental battle against throwaway plastic, with several African states such as Kenya and Rwanda having already adopted bans on certain single-use plastic items.

Elaine Mills, the online campaign creator on VUMA.EARTH, said: “South Africa is arguably the most progressive nation in Africa in terms of legislation, so it is surprising that we are falling so far behind in this global shift away from plastic.

“We are hoping to get 100000 signatures to demonstrate that a ban on throwaway plastics reflects the will of the South African people.”

To date, the Greenpeace Africa volunteer group has collected more than 3000 signatures.

Last week, the Department of Environmental Affairs continued discussions with Parliament’s Environmental Committee over a possible ban of single-use plastics.

“It is great that the powers that be are starting to realise the harmful impact of throwaway plastic on the environment. This campaign serves to dispel any doubt that could delay the process,” Mills said.

Last year, Greenpeace Africa volunteers in Durban ran a successful campaign calling for local food franchises to phase out single-use plastic. Several of its targets, including Ocean Basket and Kauai, have since taken steps to move away from plastic packaging.

The petition calls on parties to commit to ban by January 1, next year, single-use plastic carrier bags, small fruit and vegetable bags, plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and ear buds.

“The equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic enters our oceans every minute, and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish. More than one million bags are used every minute worldwide – and around half are used just once before being thrown away. Every plastic bag is used for only 15 minutes on average, but can take up to 500 years to decompose,” the petition reads.

“South Africans use 8 billion plastic shopping bags per year – and a plastic carrier bag levy introduced in 2003 has failed to have a meaningful impact.”